Synthetic or Natural Tick Repellent for Dogs? What You Need to Consider

As a pet parent, your biggest concern is your dog's health. However, environmental enemies, such as ticks, can threaten your dog's well-being. Ticks not only irritate dogs' skin, but can also pass on dangerous diseases that could put their lives at risk.

You might have tried a few different tick repellents, including chemically based solutions, some of which have worked, and others that have not. Searching for a safe, yet effective natural tick repellent for dogs, can be overwhelming and confusing.

Here are three simple steps to follow when deciding between synthetic and natural tick repellent, so you can keep your canine companion safe and protected.

Step One: Know Your Options

There are many different kinds of flea, tick, mosquito, and fly repellents available on the market. The most commonly used tick repellents are the following:
• Spot-on Treatments
• Sprays
• Edible Supplements

Spot-on Treatments

These topical medications are applied to your dog's shoulder blades or neck. Once in your dog's sweat glands, the chemical is dispersed throughout your dog's body and can provide protection for 30 days. After the treatment has a chance to dry, it will stay effective even if your dog gets wet. The EPA has been regulating spot-on products more thoroughly after many cases of adverse reactions were reported, including poisoning and death. It's important to note that these products are toxic if ingested, and can also have adverse side effects on a dog's nervous system and skin. They also present a safety hazard to humans if the pesticides are accidentally contacted (e.g., through petting) or if the dog transfers the pesticides to furniture or elsewhere in the household where humans can come into accidental contact.


Sprays are known to be effective at repelling ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, flies, and other bugs. Although bug sprays for dogs are considered a less expensive repellent, you need to ensure your dog's entire body gets covered. It is important to avoid getting the spray in your dog's ears, eyes, and mouth, so consider using a cotton ball for safer application around these areas. Negative side effects can include ocular burns, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drooling, and shaking.

Unlike spot-on treatments, which usually last 30 days, the length of time that tick, flea, and mosquito sprays are effective can vary by product. Therefore, carefully read the spray's product label for more information. Be sure to apply the product in an open area, where the chemicals will not get trapped and pollute your dog's environment. Unlike spot-on treatments, these products lose their effectiveness if the dog gets wet.

Oral Medications

Unlike sprays and spot-on products, no external application is necessary with pills and chewable tablets for tick prevention. Moreover, since this treatment is administered orally, it can quickly spread throughout your dog's entire body.

Side effects include skin reactions, depression, lack of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting. Some oral repellents also do not prevent ticks; instead, they only kill the ticks after they have bitten a dog. Therefore, be sure to read all labels thoroughly. Another disadvantage of oral medications is that they tend to be more expensive, and require a vet visit and a prescription.

Edible Supplements

These supplements are mixed in with your dog's food, and are also available in chewable form. Therefore, no application process is necessary. Many of these supplements focus on natural ingredients such as garlic. Not only can the ingredients in these products repel ticks, but they can usually repel fleas, flies, and mosquitoes as well. As with other tick repellent products, it is important to read the supplement label carefully.

Step Two: Examine the Ingredients

While each of the tick prevention methods listed above has unique benefits, it is important to focus on the ingredients they contain as well. Some of the more common ingredients in tick repellent products include:

• Methoprene
• Pyriproxyfen
• Pyrethroid (Permethrin, Phenothrin, Etofenprox)
• Imidacloprid
• Fipronil
• Garlic, which is often found in natural tick repellent for dogs

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) recommends using products with s-methoprene or pyriproxyfen if a chemical product is absolutely necessary to protect your dog from ticks. These chemicals are known to be less toxic, but could still result in potential side effects.

Products with pyrethroid-based chemicals, which are produced in a laboratory, were reported to the EPA more than other flea repellent products for adverse reactions such as seizures and heart attacks. When the chemical imidacloprid (a synthetic neonicotinoid) was tested, possible reactions included liver toxicity, lung and brain damage, and thyroid lesions.

The EPA has also investigated the ingredient fipronil, and found that kidney damage as well as thyroid, liver, and nervous system toxicity are all possible.

Garlic and other members of the genus Allium have been used as herbal medicines since ancient times. In addition to various health benefits, garlic-based products have also been used as a natural insect repellent and antimicrobial. Although there is sparse research on the toxicity of garlic for dogs, a Japanese study found that roughly 2 lbs. of raw garlic given daily over a week could induce temporary pre-anemic blood changes. This amount was more than the study dogs would voluntarily consume, and vastly greater than a typical (e.g., supplementation) consumption of garlic.

Other ingredients that are commonly found in natural flea repellent and tick repellent products include neem oil and other essential oils. While natural, these oils are not necessarily safe, as certain types of ticks, especially the brown dog tick. appear to be resistant to neem oil's effects.

Step Three: Experiment With Different Repellents

It is important to note that while all of the adverse reactions mentioned in the ingredients above are possible, many pet owners have used products with these ingredients without any problems. This is why the last step in finding the right natural tick repellent for dogs is experimenting with different repellents.

Every dog is unique; therefore, unless you test different repellents it is hard to determine whether a specific repellent is right for your dog. When choosing a repellent, keep in mind your dog's medical history and weight, as well as the time you have as an owner to apply these products properly. When you are testing a product, take steps to ensure the product is applied according to the manufacturer's directions. Moreover, keep a close eye on your dog for any abnormal reactions.

There are many synthetic and all natural flea and tick prevention products on the market, and it can be overwhelming to pick the one that is best for your dog. You might not find the best one right away. That is why it is important to implement other tick preventative measures. One measure is simply keeping your dog healthy. Ticks, and other parasites are less attracted to healthy animals.

By ensuring your dog is fed a nutritionally complete diet, inspecting your yard for tick habitats as well as implementing measures to reduce these habitats, and checking your dog for ticks on a regular basis, you are one step closer to giving your dog a safe, tick free life.

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Have I got a Bug Off Garlic story for you! I just got home from the Australian Shepherd Club of America 2014 National Specialty. My two Aussies and I compete in Obedience and Rally; I've used Springtime products for the last 7 years or so with my 11 year old male, Spooky, and started my 5 year old female, Magic, as soon as she came home.

This year's Nationals presented some challenging conditions for folks competing in Obedience and Rally. Our rings were under cover, but the sides were open and the flooring in our building was concrete covered with dirt that had previously been used in livestock stalls with ALL the usual smells and byproducts of stabling animals. But the biggest distraction for most dogs was the FLIES. They were EVERYWHERE - landing on the equipment, buzzing around dogs as they worked, and being a horrible nuisance that caused many normally excellent performing dogs to fail exercises they usually aced under other conditions.

In talking to other handlers after the first couple of pre-trials, I noticed my dogs were not being pestered by all those flies. Flies just plain avoided us - they buzzed around me, but my dogs never had one land on their faces, ears, or anywhere. Other handlers tried using all sorts of fly and bug sprays (which seriously interfered with the utility dogs that had to use their noses for the scent discrimination exercises) but they gave no perceptible relief from the fly attacks. It dawned on me why my dogs weren't bothered by the flies at all - they have been eating the Bug Off Garlic Granules for years as a deterrent to the ticks we always seem to find on our walks along the Chattahoochee River National Park. I'd never dreamed Bug Off Garlic Granules would mean the difference between earning placements in our sports, versus non-qualifying scores due to obnoxious flies bothering dogs as they tried to do their jobs. Thank you, Bug Off Garlic Granules!

Also, with the intense amount of jumping in the top levels of Utility Obedience, Spooky developed back muscle cramps when he was around 7 years old. These reminded my holistic vet of the cramps he'd seen race and cutting horses get. He suggested 325 mg dose of DMG based on Spooky's age and weight, initially formulating a tablet supplement. The tablets worked GREAT, but were really expensive. I noticed the DMG 5,600 for horses in the Springtime catalog, and brought it to his attention - and he suggested giving it a try. One container of DMG for horses has lasted me for more than two years. I believe I have seen DMG tablets advertised on various web sites - but nothing compares to the economics of that whopper horse-sized container in your catalog!

Pat Pierce, Georgia
(A happy Springtime customer with two amazing canine teammates!)

Real Letters Bug Off Garlic Chews 2015 Verbeke Amber
No More Harsh Chemical Flea & Tick Treatments!

No More Harsh Chemical Flea & Tick Treatments!

Dear Springtime,

Our family has been using Springtime products for over 20 years, and we keep coming back for more. We swear by the Bug Off Garlic Chewables. They have allowed us to completely move away from harsh chemical flea and tick treatments. We have five dogs in our home, and we haven't had a flea or tick issue. I think my son and I are the only ones who have had a tick on us! Perhaps we should take Bug Off Garlic Chewables, too! We keep trying to get our family and friends to give the pills a try. So many people have been brainwashed into thinking they need to treat their dogs with chemicals to have success, and it's simply not true.

So I am writing to say thanks! Your products have allowed our dogs to live longer, healthier, happier lives and for that we are grateful!

Amber Verbeke, Kansas

Real Letters Bug Off Garlic Chews 2015 Green Jessie

"...Wally was completely tick-free..."

Dear Springtime,

I started giving my dog, Wally, Bug Off Garlic Chewables earlier this spring before ticks became an issue. Wally goes everywhere with me. We go on daily trail walks and hikes in areas infested with ticks. I'd previously been using Frontline Plus on him, but it wasn't lasting the 30 days it was supposed to. My vet said in order for it to work well on Wally I'd need to apply a treatment once every two weeks! This simply was not going to work, so I began looking for alternative ways to keep Wally flea and tick free year round. I'm so glad I found Springtime, and since starting Bug Off Garlic Chewables Wally hasn't had any ticks!

As further proof of how well Bug Off Garlic Chewables works, I recently took Wally and my father's two dogs (a Lab and a Yorkie) out for a hike in the woods. Wally gets 6 Bug Off Garlic Chewables a day. The Lab is on Frontline Plus and wears a Scalibor flea & tick collar, and the Yorkie only gets Frontline Plus treatments. Guess which dog had absolutely no ticks when we got home? That's right, Wally was completely tick-free, while both of my dad's dogs had numerous ticks on them. Thanks again for such a great product!

Jessie Green, Maine

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Tommie, Catcher & Levi.

Amazing results in a bug-infested area...

Dear Springtime,

I'm amazed. I have had two of my dogs on your product Bug Off Garlic Granules and now just started a young dog on it, all obedience competition Border Collies. No fleas and only an occasional tick! No side effects either. I'm in bug-infested Florida.

Claudia Van Gee, Florida